Surviving an (Early-Career) Layoff

DFN: Younger workers have a hard time getting back into the workforce after getting laid off. The ‘lessons’ here are applicable to any laid off or concerned about being laid off.

Advice: Surviving an Early-Career Layoff
November 13, 2009, 12:23 PM ET
By Alina Dizik

Getting laid off right after you’ve landed your first post-college job can be a difficult adjustment. And it may mean that after months of searching for the right fit, you’re back at square one. Heather Huhman founder of Come Recommended, an online community for entry-level job seekers, says it can be especially tough for recent grads to deal with the experience. Because it is your first job and layoff, “You feel as though you have taken one step forward and two steps back—you worked hard throughout college, worked hard to find a job and then were the first to be let go,” Ms. Huhman says.

Here, Ms. Huhman shares advice on how recent graduates can find work after a layoff:

What mistakes do job seekers who haven’t spent much time in the workforce tend to make?

Lack of focus — a specific career goal is the single most important component in a successful job search. People spend more time researching a laptop purchase than they do researching the career that’s right for them. When you went to college, you did your research. [Another mistake is] not following up, this stalls any job search. Not following up on an interview or a contact can cause you to miss out on opportunities. I had a client who received a rejection letter in the mail. He thought the interview went well so he was mystified. At my suggestion, he called the recruiter for feedback. As it turned out, he got the wrong letter; they very much wanted to hire him.

If you’re competing with more senior-level job hunters, what are some strategies to get back into the workforce and to make a recent grad more desirable?

Most recent graduates are extremely flexible—or at least they should be. Many more senior-level job hunters have a particular salary and location in mind; not to mention they are often more set in their ways in terms of organizational style. Gen Y candidates have less experience and often are not as bound by salary or organizational style. Recent graduates bring a lot of technological expertise to the workforce that more senior-level job hunters have not had time to explore. It is definitely essential that recent graduates find a way to apply their technological expertise to the positions for which they are applying.

If younger workers haven’t had the chance to build valuable full-time experience, how can they speak about their most recent position?

During interviews, younger workers can speak about the practical experience they gained through internships, class projects, leadership roles and volunteer work. Even if you’ve never worked at a job a day in your life, you still have experience. Talk about what you know and can do based on your hobbies, what you’ve learned in class, [and] what you’ve learned doing extra-curricular activities.

What is a misconception of people who have been let go from their first job?

That unless you get a full-time job you will lose all your experience. If you are willing to work a few hours for free, few organizations will turn you away and this is a great way to set yourself apart within your industry. Even though you are technically unemployed, future employers will be impressed with your ability to fill your time with relevant experience. Unemployment is a good opportunity to find an unpaid internship with a company that impresses you. This is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door and in front of key people.

Readers, have you experienced a layoff after recently entering the workforce? What is your strategy for getting back to work? Share your stories in the comments section.


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